The Error of the Unstrung


I’ve got no strings

To hold me down

To make me fret, or make me frown

I had strings

But now I’m free

There are no strings on me

Hi-ho the me-ri-o

That’s the only way to go

I want the world to know

Nothing ever worries me

I’ve got no strings

So I have fun

I’m not tied up to anyone

They’ve got strings

But you can see

There are no strings on me

If you don’t remember that ditty from your childhood (or parenthood), it’s sung by Pinocchio in the classic Disney film.

I hear this song a lot lately. As I’ve listened to the Church in America over the years, I hear it voiced by a growing group of Christians who are ecstatic that they’ve dropped out of the institutional Church.

You know these folks. They talk about how much freer they are now that they no longer attend Sunday morning services. Now that they’re not part of a local assembly, they talk about all the things they can do for the Lord that they could not do before or were made to feel guilty for doing by the institutional Church police. Theirs is a louder and louder voice.

I was almost one of those people. Fed up with the way churches operated, I wanted to mold a loose affiliation of church-shunners who felt exactly as I did, a hand-chosen group of friends who could pal around together in Christ and buck the established institutional system that had grown so lethargic and monolithic.  Strings? I didn’t want to have any strings on me, especially institutional Church strings.

But as I have mellowed in the last few years, I have come to realize the problem of being unstrung.

An unwillingness to be herded plagues the American psyche . As the world’s iconoclasts, no one has the right to tell us what to think or how to behave. If we don’t like something, no force from heaven or hell can dissuade us. Rugged individualism defines us. We are the ultimate bootstrappers, devoted to me, myself, and I. I don’t need you and you don’t need me, and that’s the way the American religion works.

Strange as it may seem, that same mentality reigns in those people who deem the institutional Church unworthy. And just as I cannot support the errors of the American religion, I am fully convinced that abandoning the traditional church in this country is a grave mistake.

When the Lord formed His Church after Pentecost, it was a ragtag group of misfits. You had widows, orphans, Roman politicians, prostitutes, Jewish zealots—the ultimate mishmash of classes, races, and temperaments. And that’s exactly how God desired the Church to be.

Can you imagine what it must have been like for the Pharisee who had just come to Jesus to sit down with whores and Romans? How stretched, right? Do you think that man grew on the inside?

When one of us decides that we don’t want to be a part of the traditional local church, we lose something exceptionally valuable: the test of dealing with people we may not especially like.

We see a bit of this in the consumeristic action of church shopping. We hop and shop from church to church looking for one that best fits our desires, the one filled with people most like us. (Oddly enough, people who eschew the institutional Church are often the most vocal against church shopping. )

At a time in American history when it seems as if everyone considers himself or herself a victim, when we walk around as open wounds expecting some jerk to pour salt on us, when intelligent debate is no longer possible between people without the wailing and gnashing of teeth, and other people just plain suck, people who drop out of church only add fuel to that fire of misanthropy.

So while some may think they are truly spiritual by saying goodbye to what most of us recognize as church, I wonder if those dropouts are missing out on vital, God-ordained character building.

A few years ago, David Wayne of Jollyblogger interviewed a pastor from the country of Georgia. When David asked that pastor about church shopping and hopping, the pastor was shocked. In his country, church people were born into a church and were buried in its cemetery. What about discord and disagreements? David wondered. The pastor gave a simple answer: People were forced to work out their differences because they were fellow members of the Body of Christ.

When Christians drop out of church, we shun the vital truth that Christian character is built on dealing with one’s differences within a body of believers comprised of people who are not exactly like us. In fact, we may not even like many of those people.

But the Kingdom of God does not allow us to pick and choose who will be in it. God desires us to learn how to live with people who would ordinarily bug the heck out of us. That is part of our growth as Christians.

When I see people dropping out of church and proclaiming how free they now are, I can’t help but think that their supposed freedom comes at a steep cost, pinocchio.jpgthe cost of learning to find common ground with people they would not have chosen to be in their Christian clique.

Pinocchio had a cranium filled with sawdust when he sang how free he was from being tied to anyone. Is that how we wish to be?

When I hear people who have dropped out of church, they almost invariably talk about how they now get together with their handpicked friends, people just like themselves, for fellowship. I find that sad because I gain valuable lessons in my inner man when I must deal with a wide swath of diverse fellow believers I did not handpick.

God desires that I learn to love brothers and sisters in Christ who are ignorant, lazy, judgmental and stubborn—which may even be how others perceive me. He also desires that I share in the lives of people who are much smarter, more loving, and deeper in the faith than I am—people I might ordinarily avoid because they make my own walk with Christ appear so tepid.

Would I choose to hang with Christian 80-year-olds,  sports nuts, quilters, teens, auto mechanics, infants, and the like if it were not for the institutional Church? Probably not, but God asks me to anyway, forcing the issue by keeping me in the local church.

No matter where others fall on the spectrum of Christian maturity and social graces, all have something to teach me that is valuable. And I have in them people whose problems I might not ordinarily encounter, but for whom Christ desires I intercede and bear burdens. It is in those burdens found in people who are not like me at all that I learn what it means to seek all solutions in Christ alone.

The world around us is fragmenting into tribes, and God help us all when tribes clash. But the Church is not to be this way. We are called to get along, no matter what our fellow Christians may be like.

Sadly, when we drop out of church and go our own unstrung, “enlightened” way, we avoid this lesson. And we are poorer in spirit for doing so.

Blest be the tie that binds

Our hearts in Christian love;

The fellowship of kindred minds

Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne

We pour our ardent prayers;

Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one

Our comforts and our cares.

We share each other’s woes,

Our mutual burdens bear;

And often for each other flows

The sympathizing tear.

When we asunder part,

It gives us inward pain;

But we shall still be joined in heart,

And hope to meet again.

This glorious hope revives

Our courage by the way;

While each in expectation lives,

And longs to see the day.

From sorrow, toil and pain,

And sin, we shall be free,

And perfect love and friendship reign

Through all eternity.

— John Fawcett, “Blest Be the Ties that Bind”

28 thoughts on “The Error of the Unstrung

  1. Dave Block

    You make an excellent point, Dan, as you so often do. Good to see the engine running again on Cerulean Sanctum. This is a bit out of context, but reading your commentary, I can’t help but think of some lyrics to a Randy Stonehill song from his best album: “We all like foolish puppets/ who desiring to be kings/now lie pitifully crippled/after cutting our own strings.”

    I don’t think accountability is a strong point for most who have rejected the institutional church. And how do one explain away the roles of elders and deacons?

    • Dave,

      Those Christians who have dropped out of church altogether will often say that accountability is still there in that they still hang with their Christian friends. They don’t need elders and deacon, either, because they consider themselves to be elders and deacons—their role is simply “freelance.”

  2. Paul Walton

    In all honesty most Christians probably have at some point, felt compelled to cut the strings from the intuitional church. There will be folks we fellowship with that will just rub us the wrong way. But is this walk of faith about us, and our feelings, or about following after Christ? Our prayer should be, is this the body that you Father have planted me in? We must not lean on our own understanding, but submit to the Spirit to lead us and guide us. This journey is not about us, but rather serving Christ, and His body. Forsaking the gathering together from the traditional church fellowship maybe the path that God has for some. But I pray those individuals, would do it from a right motive, and not from a position of simply being offended.

    • Paul,

      I agree with almost everything you wrote until your statement about forsaking being okay for some. I don’t think it’s ever okay. People have to be plugged in somewhere. I think that’s the wisdom of God. Even if you are a world traveler, you still need at least one church to call your home base.

      • Paul Walton

        Dan, by stating the forsaking the traditional church I was referring to the institutional church. Folks who meet in their homes are saints that still gather together, just not in a traditional sense. I should have made that point clearer, I agree, every believer should be a part of a body.

  3. This is simply one of the best (and best written) Christian blog posts I’ve ever read. Your words speak not only to those who eschew “church”, but to those who leave one fellowship after another because they can’t get along with people there, or because of minor differences in doctrine. Your words encourage me to stick out my church membership in spite of often and repeated difficulties and differences. Your words testify to the truth of the challenge, and character-building force of church membership. What looks like rugged individualism, and dividing over “principles” is sometimes really little more than the path of least resistance. Finding fault is very unsportsmanlike behavior – like shooting fish in a barrel. There’s nothing easier really, since we’re all sinners plagued with flaws. We are called to something much higher: love which covers a multitude of sins.

    Thank you for these heartfelt words.

    • Laurie,

      Thank you, though I confess that I found the outcome a bit spread out and not as pointed as I had hoped.

      I am a flawed person. There are two ways I am going to become less flawed over time: hang around people who are less flawed than I am and around those who are more flawed than I am. Those who are less flawed speak into my life and help me grow. Those who are more flawed allow me to learn how to minister to them and speak into their lives while also helping me to develop a heart of flesh.

      You polish a gem by putting it into a tumbler filled with abrasives. If that’s not what the church should be doing to us, then we’re missing a major reason for its existence.

  4. Well, you make me wonder, Dan. I am not personally close to giving up on church, but perhaps on “my church;” the ties are just not all that binding. But I don’t think my “straying” is just sinful self-indulgence either (of course we never think we’re being self indulgent!). “Church shopping” as it is generally depicted has no appeal, but what is the alternative? I would like to hear your comments on that subject where it is not characterized in an automatically shallow consumeristic way. I mean, is it always that? The other end of the spectrum is unquestioning loyalty to the same church no matter what (I know that’s not what your arguing for). But there can come a time when one needs to make an informed choice, wouldn’t you say? I’m just thinking out loud, perhaps trying to justify my own wayward tendencies these days. Love the post (as always).

    • Bob,

      When a person has been walking with Christ for a long time, has gained a certain level of maturity that includes feeding oneself on the Living Bread, and has come to the conclusion that it’s time to leave a church that is stagnant or unloving, I think grace exists for that person.

      An no doubt, finding a balanced church of loving people is hard. I also think we make it too hard. It’s a bit like those folks who never get married because they’ve got a list of qualifications a yard long for that “perfect” person. Nine times out of ten, the real reason that these poor deluded have spent all their time trying to get someone to fit their list, when they themselves are all out of whack.

      In other words, our standards for others are often too high, while our standards for ourselves are not high enough. The longer I live, the more I understand that I am as much of a problem in many cases as that incorrigible foe who drives me nuts. If I can’t find a “good church,” maybe the problem is within me more than within those churches that don’t measure up.

      I also believe that too many of us give up too easily. And when we do, we tend to become permanent church shoppers and hoppers, forever drifting, looking for that perfect church—”perfect” meaning that the people never rub us the wrong way or disagree with us. I continue to meet these people—and in greater numbers.

      I’m also increasingly encountering the odd subset of those same people who show off their supposed “maturity” by completely dropping out of what they deem the “institutional” church. Their expression of Christianity then reduces to hanging around with their friends and calling that church. These are often the same people who have decried church hopping and shopping.

      And like I said in the post, a great deal is lost when we flee working through conflict in a mature, Christ-loving way. We lose even more when our circle of church-shunning friends turns out to be clones of us. The marriage supper of the Lamb is not going to be comprised solely of white college grads of a certain age who are into Dallas Willard, can quote liberally from Lewis, Wright, and Bonhoeffer, and saw Keith Green in concert. We do ourselves a great disservice when we surround ourselves with too many people just like us, and this tendency is even worse in younger people who drop out of church than those who stay in it.

      So no, it’s not always consumeristic, but it’s sometimes still arrived at too quickly.

      In my case, my own church has plenty of people with odd theology (at least as I see it). On the other hand, it’s also filled with a larger than average number of people who love the brethren. Odd theology can be worked on, but a church with so many people who genuinely care about others is harder to find. I also saw that people in my church genuinely wanted to grow closer to Christ. That desire also means a lot. So I can abide those who may not believe exactly as I do because those same people want to grow in Christ and love their neighbor.

      One last thing…

      I think that too many of us rely on ourselves to say when it’s time to leave one church for another. Sometimes I think that we need to hear someone else say that about our situation before we should consider leaving. If you have someone outside of your immediate family who thinks you should leave your church, especially if it’s more than one God-fearing person, then I think you should consider whether that’s God speaking through others.

      (Well, little of this is what I originally wrote in my comment that was lost, but I hope it serves the same purpose!)

  5. Nice post. It speaks very much to a concern I have had for some time. When I think of such non-attending believers, I think of Jesus’ phrase: “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”.

    • Sulan

      Phil, can you expound on this statement — When I think of such non-attending believers, I think of Jesus’ phrase: “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

      A lot fo folks I know who don’t go to church, are born again believers, who have good resons they don’t go, but they all know God to a degree that some folks I know, who go all the time, don’t reach.

      I am not trying to start anything here, I have just never heard that phrase used for such. I was under the impression that the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” meant Israelites who never came to know Jesus.

      Thanks in advance.

  6. Sulan

    Truthbetold, I read the article. I know exactly hwo you feel, except I have never been an ordained minister by man, but always an ordained minister by God — I think all His chidlren are to be.

    From 1991 to 1996, I was a volunteer in a church office. I left that oragnized church back in 1996, when I challenged something said across the pulpit, and I knew it wasn’t in the Word, and privately brought it to the minister’s attention. I was told I took the Bible too literally. AND HE WAS RIGHT — I do take the Word of God literally — I believe I am supposed to.

    As a sheep who walked away from the farm, all the church ladies I hung with, forgot my name. The friends I had who believed in God and didn’t attend any church, remembered me.

    What a time. What a time! At this time, I began to get in the Word more, listen to only men of God who aimed me to God, and wasn’t trying to manipulate my last dollar out of my wallet. I found 2 men of God, that to this day, I watch on TV, and on-line.

    Yes, I am blessed by this. But more than anything else, my cup is always full to running over, and I am able to share with others as I pass them in my daily walk, and see their needs. I do not think that what I receive from God is for me to keep.

    Have I gone back to church? Not on a full time basis. I have nothing against going. Lately I have been attending with my DIL. The music drives me nuts, but the preaching and teaching is right on.

    I work in an office where three of us women share a bull pen, and we are Christians, and we talk about God all day long. We have the freedom to pray for others there who have a need.

    Most of my friends and I talk about nothing but the Lord, all day, no matter where we go.

    I personally, do not think you can clump all who have left the organized church in one basket. Sometimes no matter why you are supposed to be there, the poison being served is deadly.

    Thank you all for listening.

  7. Sulan

    Truthbetold and Bob,
    I have to thank y’all for posting such good ahsring material. When I find something here that I like, I copy and paste and bring to friends who do not have acess to on-line. They are blessed by what y’all share also.

    To me, this is church, sharing the good news, the golden tidbits found along the way, that point us all — in a littel brighter light — to the Godhead!

  8. helenrenell

    Thank you Bob and Sulan for your comments.

    I have left many churches due to unbiblical and manipulative reasons and others I won’t mention. It has caused me much suffering and pain.

    Yet, I have a thriving relationship with the Lord and wouldn’t trade it for anything. You can’t put God in a box and even though some leave the church it may be only for a season.

    Calling us lost are part of the reason I stay away.

  9. Dan

    Would you recommend someone stay in the Catholic Church?

    How about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints?

    What if someone has a love for the truth;
    What would you recommend then?

    What about Amos 3:3 Can two walk together,
    except they be agreed?

    The Bible warns us about,
    the commandments of men,
    the doctrines of men,
    the philosophies of men,
    and the traditions of men
    that make the Word of God
    of non effect. Mk 7:14

    What if “traditions of men that make the word of God of non effect
    are being taught in the I.C. and not the truth, not the Bible;
    Then What?

    How many, extra biblical, non biblical, anti biblical, sermons
    are we supposed to listen to?

    How many twisted scriptures is the IC allowed to twist
    for it’s own purpose?

    How many lies are we supposed to keep silent about?
    And just go along with the “so called leadership?
    Four? Five? Fifty Five?

    How much authority can “so called leadership exercise when
    Jesus told His disciples that they were not to exercise lordship
    or exercise authority like the gentiles? Mark 10:42

    How much spiritual abuse is okay?

    Why should obedience to a “so called leader be important?
    When Jesus told His disciples not to be called leaders? Mat. 23:10

    The Interlinear Bible-
    Nor be called leaders,
    for one is your leader the Christ.

    Phillips Modern English-
    you must not let people call you leaders,
    you have only one leader, Christ.

    Today’s English Version-
    nor should you be called leader.
    your one and only leader is the Messiah.

    The Amplified-
    you must not be called masters ( leaders )
    for you have one master ( leader )
    the Christ.

    If Jesus told His disciples not to be called master/leader
    and someone calls them self a leader or thinks they are a leader;
    are they a disciple?

    If that is our choice, “disciple or “leader
    which one do you choose?

    Don’t titles become idols and pastors become masters?

    From experience the answer is a resounding YES!

    Titles are idols and pastors are masters.

    Have you considered the ant?

    An ant is small and insignificant. Or is it?

    Go to the ant, thou sluggard;
    consider her ways, and be wise:
    Which having
    no guide,
    or ruler,
    Provideth her meat in the summer,
    and gathereth her food in the harvest.
    Proverbs 6:6-9

    Guide – 07101 qatsiyn from 07096
    KJV – ruler 4, prince 4, captain 3, guide 1
    1- chief, commander, dictator.
    2- ruler (of one in authority)

    Overseer – 07860 shoter {sho-tare’}
    KJV – officers 23, ruler 1, overseer 1; 25
    1- official, officer.

    Ruler – 04910 mashal {maw-shal’}
    KJV – rule 38, ruler 19, reign 8,
    dominion 7, governor 4, 81
    1-to rule, have dominion, reign
    2- to exercise dominion.

    Just about every seminary of the IC has in it’s mission statement
    that they are “training leaders.

    But Jesus told His disciples not to be called leaders.

    Didn’t Jesus come as a servant?
    Php 2:7 But made himself of no reputation,
    and took upon him the form of a servant… and humbled Himself…

    Ro 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
    Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ,
    Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ,
    Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God,
    Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God
    2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant

    His disciples called themselves servants
    none called themselves leaders. None? None.
    None called themselves servant-leader. None? None.
    If you think you are a leader are you a disciple?

    When someone leaves the IC are they leaving THE†ˆCHURCH
    or just a 501 c 3, non profit, tax deductible, religious corporation?

    Jesus is the head of the body
    (the ekklesia, the called out one’s) the church.
    If you’re in the body can you leave the church?

    Ekklesia, church, always refers to people.

    in the Bible; Does ekklesia ever refer to a building,
    a denomination, an institution or a corporation?

    Should we call a corporation “The Church?

    Did anyone in the Bible go to church?
    Or did they become the church?

    Leaving the IC is not just about freedom { ; o )
    it is about a search for truth and life with Jesus.

    Freedom is the joy and icing on the cake.

    In His Service. By His Grace.

    • A. Amos,

      Freedom is also a way to escape responsibility or to flee the difficult thing. I think that people who drop out of organized meetings of believers are missing exactly what I talked about in the post.

  10. Hi Sulan,

    You can understand Jesus’ reference to lost sheep different ways. I take it according to his parable, in referring to a sheep that wandered away from the flock. Sheep are flock animals; a sheep that is by itself is either lost or has been driven away. It is not a better or a worse sheep than the rest of the flock, but it is not where it was meant to be.

    In describing his ministry as one of seeking the lost sheep of Israel, I believe that Jesus was clearly referring to it as the fulfilment of the prophecy in Ezekiel 34:

    “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered….. “‘

    “……For thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out……Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd.”

    Ezekiel’s prophecy seems to describe a situation in which many in Israel were scattered and alienated from the flock because of dysfunctional leadership. Jesus’ mission was to bring them together again.

    Now this is talking about Israel, but I see very clear parallels with the situation today and I believe Jesus’ purpose for believers remains unchanged. And that is for the restoration of the church as the vessel of his purpose and the restoration of alienated believers to the church.

    I encourage you to read the entire chapter. It is a very strong message.


  11. Dan – When you’re still a part of the Institutional Church,
    when you’re in the religious system of the day,
    involved with all their programs and traditions,
    supporting and encouraging their existence
    with tithes, offerings, volunteer service, and titles,
    honoring “so called leadershipwith power, profit, and prestige,
    honoring them with titles that are not in the Bible,
    vicar, archdeacon, father, rector, priest,
    reverand, right reverand, most holy right reverand,
    singles pastor, senior pastor, assoc. pastor, youth pastor, etc.

    When you’re giving time, honor and money to the system,
    Aren’t you, in effect, idolizing the system?
    Aren’t you, in effect, worshiping the system?

    When you reverence and worship an idol,
    the religious system, the traditions of men,
    It’s hard to see…

    In Jesus’ day the religious leaders rejected Him,
    the one they were looking for, when He showed up.
    They couldn’t see…

    And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise…
    Exodus 23:8

    The system purchases religious leaders with the gifts of
    power, profit, prestige, prominence; titles,
    they took the gift, thought they were special,
    they were blinded and couldn’t see…

    Jesus became one who obeyed the Father
    and left “the religious system of the day.
    The system He set up.

    …The Son can do nothing of himself,
    but what he seeth the Father do:
    for what things soever he doeth,
    these also doeth the Son likewise.
    John 5:19

    Jesus didn’t stop there, not only did He leave,
    He called others out, to follow Him,
    out of “the religious system of the day.

    Ekklesia – ek – out of, kaleo – to call.
    Church=ekklesia – a calling out.
    Jesus is the head of the body
    (the ekklesia – the called out ones,) the church.

    Jesus’ Church, His ekklesia, His called out ones,
    were all Jews, people, called out out of
    “the religious system of the day.

    Everyone that became His disciples
    He called out of “the religious system of the day
    into a relationship with Him,
    and obedience to Him,
    not obedience to the system.

    You can’t serve two masters.

    Religion is the system not the relationship.

    Peace and joy as you search for truth.

    In His Service, By His Grace.

    • Amos,

      We’re still called out, but we’re called out in order to come together. Called out of the world and called into fellowship.

      The earliest believers didn’t come out of their religious system. They met every day in the temple and continued to take full part in the temple system of sacrifice, they circumcised, they kept kosher.

      I think the whole issue of the institutional church vs alternative church is a red herring. Any committed gathering of believers is the ekklesia, whether it’s 1st Baptist or Free Spirit Fellowship. Putting down the “system” and implying that organized church is idolatry just puts up walls within the Body.

      But that’s not what this thread is about. It’s about believers who do not regularly gather together with other believers on any basis, and that is against Christ’s will for them.

    • A. Amos,

      If getting out of the “system” is little more than me saying adios to the blessed ties that bind, then I’ll take the ties that bind. For many people who ditch the system, all they are trying to do is shed responsibility for loving difficult people who God ordained them to love.

  12. Dan and Phil – Thanks for the feedback.
    And I really do appreciate your service
    and willingness to serve where and how you do.

    There was a time that I desired to be a leader
    and was reading all the “How To books
    on how to be a good leader. There are lots of them.

    “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

    I was already doing the work of an elder, shepherding,
    teaching, praying for the sick, cleaning the bathroom,
    sweeping the sidewalk, repairing the roof, visiting the hospital,
    staying overnight and christmas day with someone who was
    dying of Aids so the family could rest a little
    and have some time for themselves.

    “My Church” wanted to make it official,
    and give me the title elder,
    I refused and said being a believer was good enough.
    I didn’t need a title.

    I wasn’t being humble at the time. I didn’t measure up
    for the qualifications for an elder.
    Must be blameless, have your family in order; mine wasn’t. etc.

    How many ekklesia take those qualifications
    for bishop and elder seriously today?

    There came a day when they offered to
    officially ordain me into the ministry.
    Now being a pastor and called pastor
    is something I desired and I said okay.
    I justified it by saying and believing,
    “there are no qualifications for pastor in the Bible.

    As I searched the scriptures about pastors,
    I wanted to be the best that I could be,
    I had a rude awakening.

    There wasn’t very much about pastors
    and what there was, was not very flattering.

    Jeremiah 2:8 The priests said not, Where is the LORD?
    and they that handle the law knew me not:
    the pastors also transgressed against me… KJV

    Jeremiah 10:21 For the pastors are become brutish,
    ( beastly, carnal )
    and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper,
    and all their flocks shall be scattered. KJV

    Jeremiah 12:10 Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard,
    they have trodden my portion under foot… KJV

    Jeremiah 22:22 The wind shall eat up all thy pastors,
    and thy lovers shall go into captivity: KJV

    Jeremiah 23:1 Woe be unto the pastors that
    destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! KJV

    Jeremiah 23:2 …thus saith the LORD God of Israel
    against the pastors that feed my people;
    Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away,
    and have not visited them: KJV

    Jeremiah 50:6 My people hath been lost sheep:
    their shepherds have caused them to go astray… KJV

    I found not one person was called pastor.
    Not one person had the title pastor.
    Not one person was ordained a pastor by another man.
    And not one congregtion was led by a pastor.

    I was in a state of shock. How could this be Lord?

    Every place you turned there were singles pastors
    and youth pastors and associate pastors and senior pastors
    and Reverands, and Right Reverands and Most Right Reverands.

    Every place but in the Bible.

    I agree with you Phil that Instutional church vs
    Alternitive church is not to be the issue.

    Having a “love for the truth and “obeying Jesus is the issue.

    Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice,
    that he might instruct thee.
    Deuteronomy 4:36

    It is written in the prophets,
    And they shall be all taught of God.
    John 6:45

    Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come,
    he will guide you into all truth…
    John 16:13

    After pastors I checked out a lot of other traditions
    that make the word of God of none effect.
    Not much was matching up with scripture.
    The tithe, communion, submission to authority,
    pastors in pulpits preaching to people in pews,
    sitting in the same pew for 52 weeks and not participating.

    I believe you are familiar with the book Pagan Christianity.

    What had I believed all these years?
    What had I been taught by “My Elders
    and “My Pastors and “My Leaders?
    The one’s who were supposed to be watching out for my soul.

    It took a few years, five or six, early 90s,
    but eventually I totally left the system
    that had purchased me (Yea, I could be bought.)
    and cut up those official papers.

    It wasn’t an easy decision Dan.
    It was thru much struggle and tears.
    I sense that struggle in you.

    Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
    I was no longer in agreement with the religious system
    I had loved and approved.
    I could no longer serve two masters.

    I finally decided to follow Jesus and not man.

    How did they purchase me? It was easy.
    They began the purchase with flattery.

    A man that flattereth his neighbor
    spreadeth a net for his feet. Pr 29:5

    What I heard was, I was special, I had an anointing,
    I was a gifted teacher, I was a leader,
    and I was to be used by God to build the kingdom of God.
    Who could argue with that wisdom? {;o)

    The problem is the flattery blinds and perverts when excepted.

    And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise,
    and perverteth the words of the righteous. Ex 23:8

    He who hates gifts shall live. Pr 15.27

    Jesus said, I receive not honour from men…
    How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another,
    and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?
    John 5:41-44

    Was I wanting, lusting after, honour from men?
    (Still fight this one.)
    Was I willing to honour others so they would honour me?
    Leaders meetings, pastor meetings, etc.

    There was a lot of lifting up I, lifting up man,
    man getting the glory and not enough lifting up Jesus.

    Then “the Chrurch of the Pleasant Parables
    purchased me (paid my price)
    with power, profit, prestige, position and prominence. A title.

    They gave me what the great big I wanted.
    The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
    Which is not of the Father, but is of the world. 1 John 2:16

    The great big I was in bondage to a another master
    and I didn’t know it.
    Everything looked so good and so right.

    No servant can serve two masters:
    for either he will hate the one, and love the other;
    or else he will hold to the one,
    and despise the other.
    Luke 16:13

    Sometimes we have to answer this question;
    Which master do I despise?

    The institution had a list of “I believes.
    If someone disagreed, they were put down, called names,
    labeled rebellious, not able to submit, etc.
    They were either forced or were asked to leave.

    The one’s who stayed, stayed in fear.
    Fear of being labeled and called names.
    For a long time I put up with the control and manipulation.
    And the fear that I would be out of God’s will if I didn’t obey.
    Lots of pain, lots of spiritual abuse.

    This is just a small part of the journey.

    I Pray that you can hear past the differences
    and hear the love.

    Continue to stay sweet in your search for truth.

    In His Service. By His Grace.

    • A. Amos,

      My church, which I think you would deem “institutional,” is not like the churches you describe. The pastor is one of us in every way. He didn’t come through “the system,” either.

      As for me, I am not afraid. My not being afraid comes from realizing that God has a purpose for me and is not calling me out of “the system”; He wants to do something about making it shine the way it is supposed to. The easy path for me would be to leave. Leaving means saying goodbye to people who are not like me. Leaving, as I see it, stymies my growth as a Christian because it allows me to pick and choose the people I fellowship with. I don’t believe God wants that for the very reasons I have outlined. He did not permit that of the early Church, so why should He permit it today? The publican is meant to fellowship with the Sadducee who likewise worships with the ex-whore and the Roman. That’s the Church.

      Every example I have seen of people who have dropped out of “the institutional church” finds them either hanging only with people of their exact same convictions, temperament, and demographic, or not really fellowshipping with anyone to any extent that depicts the genuine Church in the Book of Acts.

      This is not to say those people don’t exist who are able to actually broaden their scope of ministry and fellowship rather than see it diminish. But I believe them to be remarkably rare, not because they are the remnant foretold in Scripture, but because they have an amazing amount of stick-to-it-iveness. In many ways, those folks have always been the contrarians in one way or another, so bucking the system comes naturally, even from before they were saved. This may not so much be God leading them in the proper way, but the natural outcome of doing things their own way anyway. This doesn’t mean they can’t be effective for the Kingdom, but I believe they can be even more effective if they were to let God mold them in a more uncomfortable place, which I believe is within “the system” rather than outside of it.

      You wrote:

      For a long time I put up with the control and manipulation.
      And the fear that I would be out of God’s will if I didn’t obey.
      Lots of pain, lots of spiritual abuse.

      Yes, it’s terrible to endure that. It stinks. But it’s never going to change unless we stand and fight it. Even it it wears us down to a nub, even if we endure the brickbats of “fellow saints,” God is still faithful to us. If we persevere, His way will win out. We see Paul’s exasperation at times in dealing with hardheaded people in the churches, but he fought for those churches anyway. We who are mature are to do the same.

    • Thanks for telling us your story, Amos. I hope that someday you’ll come back in and do those things you did at the beginning, but this time doing it for the Lord, not for man.

      I’ll tell a bit of my story too, so you can see where I’m coming from.

      I’ve been a member of just 3 churches over the past 40 years. When I’ve changed, it’s only been because of a geographical move.

      I’ve seen things in church I have not liked. I have seen things in leadership I have not liked. On the other hand I have seen much grace there too.

      I’ve been in leadership, I’ve been out of it. I know what it’s like to be critical of some leadership decisions and I also know what it’s like to wrestle with hard and thankless choices behind closed doors and never be able to tell our reasoning to others because of confidentiality issues.

      I don’t think anyone has ever tried to flatter or groom me. I’m not the kind people look to first for a leadership role. I’m more the low-profile, steady guy they ask to be interim leader when there is a leadership meltdown, and who returns to the shadows afterward.

      I’ve learned not to take my standing in the church too seriously. Whether at the centre or in the margins, I just try to serve as I’m led and called. I try to respect the leadership for Jesus’ sake, but the attitude I have chosen throughout is to see the church as bigger than its leaders. The leaders are trustees, but the owner is Christ.

      That’s why I’m still here.

  13. Dan and Phil – I’m enjoying the communion, koinonia, fellowship.
    Doing this in remembrance of Jesus.
    Remembering His death, burial and resurection until he comes.

    Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another:
    and the LORD hearkened, and heard it,
    and a book of remembrance was written before him
    for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.
    Malachi 3:16

    This is how I’m seeing it now. I do reserve the right to be wrong.
    I’ve changed my mind a few times after I knew I really knew it all. {;o)

    We are warned that some will preach another Jesus.
    Do you think some preach another ekklesia?
    A false ekklesia, where man is in control and not Jesus in control?

    Jesus is the head of the body the church.
    Do not be called master/leader for you have one leader the Christ.

    1st Samuel chapter 8 is about God’s people rejecting God’s leadership for that of a man, A King, to be like the other people.
    God was not happy but he gave them what they wanted
    and said to Samuel;

    “they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me,
    that “I should not “reign” over them.”

    God’s people did not want God to “reign over them.

    Can you see any differences between
    The Kingdom of “God;
    The rule, the “reign,’ the dominion of “God ruling in a man.
    The Kingdom of “The Institution;
    The rule, “reign, dominion of “The Institution ruling in a man?

    Can you see any differences between
    “The Church of God,
    The ekklesia, the people of God.
    “The Church of The Institution?
    The people of the Institution?

    1-“The Church of God, (the ekklesia, us,)
    is purchased with His blood.

    1-“The Church of Baptist (The Institution)
    (or what ever name) (Church of Man, Lutheran, etc)
    purchases us with things that are of the world.
    Fear, flattery, security, friends, promises of wealth and blessings, etc. Those things that feed the flesh.
    Power, profit, prestige, salary, retirement, flattery,
    invitations to speak, titles, etc.

    2-“The Church of God is built and added to by Jesus.
    I will build my church… Matthew 16:18
    And the Lord added to the church daily
    those who should be saved. Acts 2:47

    2-“The Church of Baptist” is built by man.
    With programs, seminaries, conventions, crusades,
    tithes and offerings sermons,guilt and commitment sermons,
    bring your neighbor to church sermons, etc.

    3-“The kingdom of God comes not with observation,
    it is “within” hidden.
    It is the rule, the “reign, the dominion,
    the goverment of God in one’s heart.
    This government shall be upon Jesus’ shoulders.

    3- “The kingdom of Baptist is “without,” where it can be seen,
    names on church buildings, schools, credentials, diplomas,
    business cards, phone books, written “I believes,
    rules and regulations, how to dress, how to speak,
    where it can be “seen.

    “…let us build us a city and a tower,
    whose top may reach unto heaven;
    and let us make us a name… Gen 11:9

    It is the rule, the “reign, the dominion, the goverment of Baptists.
    This government shall be upon
    The Southern Baptists Conventions shoulders.

    4- In “The Church of God you serve one master, Jesus,
    and we are equal bretheran.
    The Lord is our shephered and we are his people,
    and the sheep of his pasture.
    None call themselves leader or shepherd. All are bretheran.

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice;
    and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
    John 10:16

    There is, One Voice – One Fold – One Shepherd.

    4- In “The Church of Baptist you serve many masters,
    some more equal than others.
    You have hierarchy, local leaders, youth leaders, church leaders,
    board leaders, district leaders, denominational leaders.
    You have – leaders, followers – clergy, laity – shepherds, sheep –
    And you have separation. You have some lording it over others.

    There are many voices – many shepherds – many leaders.

    Have they rejected God, that God should not “reign over them?

    For “the leaders of this people cause thee to err;
    and they that are led of them are destroyed.
    Isaiah 9:16

    O my people, “they which lead thee cause thee to err,
    and destroy the way of thy paths.
    Isaiah 3:12

    My people hath been lost sheep:
    “their shepherds have caused them to go astray…
    Jeremiah 50:6

    Unfortunatly, or is it fortunatly, that has been my experience.
    And the experience of many.

    Be blessed.

    In His Service. By His Grace.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *